DCPS GREENHOUSES TO GREEN JOBS
First, the necessity of combating global climate change has increased the interest
for environmentally-focused “green” jobs. Second, urban, low-income
families suffer from an array of preventable medical conditions which include: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high
incidence of diabetes, and high rates of heart disease. Washington, DC also ranked
9th in childhood obesity in a recent study.
Both of these societal challenges can be addressed by growing vegetables and other
plants in already existing District of Columbia Public School system (DCPS) greenhouses.
Many DCPS schools already utilize gardens and outdoor teaching spaces to teach children about nutrition, science and
math. Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering HS and Eastern SHS have
greenhouses that are un-utilized.
Described below is a course of instruction designed to teach interested students
how to grow plants of various varieties either as part of the normal teaching and learning framework, as an after school (out
of school time) program, or both. In addition to teaching topics that are included
in DCPS teaching standards, this program will be in keeping with the federally-mandated DC Wellness Policy; which has heretofore been somewhat neglected. Furthermore, by gearing the program
to potential commercial/entrepreneurial applications this program will fulfill the un-implemented 22-year old DC law known
as the “Food Production and Urban Gardens Program.” The jumping off point will be a pared down master gardening curriculum.
The plan is to also incorporate watershed education, and field trips on local rivers
and to working farms so that a clear connection can be made between our modern farming system that utilizes chemical fertilizers,
pesticides and herbicides, and more traditional organic farming methods that typically cause far less pollution. Farm runoff is the number one source of pollution in US rivers and streams according to the EPA.
The desire for locally-produced food by people, wholesalers and restaurants who
are concerned about nutrition and the environment is a fact that has been underscored by the recent creation of an organic
garden at the White House. Because the produce travels shorter distances and
burns fewer fossil fuels; local farming is a low cost, low carbon footprint solution for many urban ills. If the food is produced organically, the benefits only
increase. In short, there is a ready-made growing commercial market. On the nutritional side, experience shows that young people who help grow vegetables are more likely to
eat them. Cooking demonstrations will also be utilized.
Ultimately, the formation of a DCPS farmers market, community supported agricultural
program (CSA), and jobs on already established urban farms, local farms, landscaping businesses, nurseries and garden centers
are a reasonable expectation. Students participating in the program could one
day conceivably receive credit towards graduation and be paid.
Hands-on, experiential environmental education has been shown to help student achievement. This type of learning, often outdoors, accommodates students who may have difficulty
learning by traditional methods. The program plan includes community service
and donating produce to food banks and soup kitchens, and thus has a “service learning” component.
Carl Rollins, the co-president of the DC Environmental Education Consortium (DCEEC) will initiate the “Greenhouses to Green Jobs” program as a volunteer. Mr.
Rollins is also a master gardener who is on staff at the Common Good City Farm in Washington, DC. In addition to working with environmental educators, experience
with school yard gardens and urban agriculture Mr. Rollins is a former practicing attorney and a member of the DC Farm to
School Network Advisory Board. Initially, Mr. Rollins will register as a volunteer with the DCPS Office of
Community Partnerships, and seek organizational support from DC community gardening programs, the DCEEC and its member organizations. Until then, this will be an all volunteer effort.
Once partners are secured, the entity will apply to be vetted by the DCPS Office of Out of School Time.
At that point, various grant funding sources can be tapped: e.g.; AmeriCorps, DDOE
RiverSmart Schools program, NOAA’s B-Wet program, Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Justice grants, US Department of Agriculture Community Food Project grant program,
ARRA “Communities Putting Prevention to Work” funding, and potentially US Department of Education Innovation Fund